Joseph DeCamp was a great American Impressionist during the late 1800s to the early 1900s. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on November 5, 1868 and started painting at the age of fifteen. DeCamp went to study art in Munich when he’d turned twenty, where he met and trained with German-American artist Frank Duveneck, who was 10 years his senior, along with a group of other young painters known as the Duveneck Boys. Duveneck was a portrait painter and influenced DeCamp with his style of figure painting.
DeCamp returned to America after traveling through Europe and spending time in Florence, Italy. He finally settled down in Boston in the year 1883, and he focused on figure painting and soon opened a studio there. He became associated with the Boston School of Painting which was led by Emil Otto Grundmann and Edmund Charles Tarbell. The Boston School of Painting was identified by the characteristics and similar styles used by the group of artists, which were representative of the era that they lived in and the refinement of their techniques. It wasn't until the 1890’s that DeCamp redeveloped his art to include the style ‘tonalism’.
In 1897 DeCamp was a member of a group of American Impressionists who became known simply by the name, Ten American Painters. The Ten were Edmund Charles Tarbell, Childe Hassam, John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir, Robert Reid, Frank Weston Benson, Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Willard Metcalf, Edward Simmons and Joseph DeCamp. Winslow Homer and Abbott Handerson Thayer were asked to join the group in its early days of formation but they declined the invitation. When Twachtman died in 1902, William Merritt Chase was invited to take his place in the group.
At one time, in Maine, DeCamp's studio had gone up in flames, but that wasn't the only catastrophic fire that he had experienced. There was another fire in DeCamp’s studio in Boston, in 1904, which simply devastated him as he'd lost hundreds of his early paintings in just a few hours time. It’s also said that the Boston fire was a major influence on his later career; one that brought him fame and fortune. The story is that DeCamp, the day after losing his studio, walked into a famous men’s club called the St. Botolph Club, and told the men there what had happened to his studio. He said, basically, that he had a family to feed and that he would paint any man’s portrait for only $100. Apparently it was the right price, and he had many takers. In fact, DeCamp had not had any real popularity before the fire, but when his portraits of the St. Botolph club members were seen and appreciated he received many more commissions, and those portraits were painted for the top current prices. His portraits were sought after and his popularity never waivered after that.
DeCamp took a position as a teacher at the Boston Museum School. By this time his portraits of fashionable young women had also won him praise and distinction as a portraitist. Some of DeCamp's well-known paintings are The Cellist (1908), The Blue Cup (1909), The Kreutzer Sonata (1912-1914) and The Steward (1919). The simple subject matter of his paintings captures a deeper meaning of the characters he portrays and enlivens the visual senses. Joseph DeCamp passed away in Boca Grande, a small town in Florida, on February 11, 1923.